Institutionalizing Corporate Oligarchy

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The Supreme Court decision in the case of in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission yesterday, by a vote of 5-4, absolutely sickens me.

The New York Times editorial this morning is a pretty good summary. In case you don’t have a minute or two now to read the whole thing now, here are the key grafs:

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.
Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.

Hey, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, we’ve already got a corporate oligarchy here in the U.S., in case you hadn’t noticed. That you approve is no surprise. That you would make this long leap toward institutionalizing it is heinous.

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3 comments so far

  1. jonolan on

    One small but fundamental problem – The Supreme Court rendered the proper decision by the dictates of our constitution. We may all hate it – you for corporations and I for the unions – but it was the right decision.

    Of course if you don’t care about the constitution, but only about laws that serve your interests, then it must really suck.

    Jefferson once said that he’d rather be inconvenienced by too much liberty than by too little of it. That’s a bit of wisdom we’re both going to have to try to console ourselves with.

    • QC on

      @jonolan:
      Thanks for your comment.

      While you may agree with the majority’s interpretation of the law, this is not a slam dunk as you seem to imply. This was a 5-4 vote, after all. I’ll side with the minority opinion, thank you.

      The ideological balance of the current court is similar to that of the court in 2000 that gave us Bush v. Gore. The Citizens United case, in my view, is the second bookend.

      • jonolan on

        OK then, what if Michael Moore’s release date had been closer to an election (still possible if it goes to cable) and the FEC decided it was too political for that time? Or a re-release in 2012 of Denzel Washington’s Manchurian Candidate?

        Under the current, vaguely worded law the FEC could declare such things illegal (a federal felony in fact) or the people airing the films might, as is common now, have to seek prior approval to air it from the FEC.

        Think about it.


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